Alice Tegnér may be famous for her children’s songs, but what is lesser-known is that she wrote many other kinds of music. In fact, she had great ambitions as a composer.
Alice Tegnér was born in Karlshamn, in southern Sweden, in 1864. She was the daughter of a sea captain who was interested in music, Eduard Sandström, and his wife Sofie. Alice’s musical education began when she was quite young and was accomplished with her father’s support. When she was 13 years old, he encouraged her to move to Stockholm with her older sister to continue studies there. 1880–83 she attended the Advanced Teacher Seminary for Women, but consistently occupied herself with music on the side, such as by taking piano lessons from Ludvig Norman.
After completing her teaching degree, she worked as a governess in Finland for one year and was thereafter employed at a publishing house. The publisher’s brother-in-law, lawyer Jakob Tegnér, would become her husband.
In 1891, the pair moved together with their two sons to the newly built suburban development of Djursholm in Stockholm. They came to be included in a large circle of friends in which Alice Tegnér became a central person in furthering the cause of music. She led evening concerts, taught music at the co-educational school, and played the organ and directed the choir at Djursholm’s Chapel. Simultaneously, she developed her own music education by taking piano lessons from Lennart Lundberg (1893–94), composition and organ lessons from Gustaf Hägg (1898) and instruction in counterpoint and composition from Johan Lindegren (1901–03) – the most prominent name in qualified music education at the time.
In 1912 the family withdrew from Djursholm and moved to Tullinge, south of Stockholm. In 1926, several years after her husband’s decease, she moved to the city, where she resided until her death in 1943.
Most of Alice Tegnér’s children’s songs transpired during her years in Djursholm. This also applied to many of her other creative musical undertakings. She wrote choral songs for school use and choral works for adults at the chapel. She composed solo vocal works virtually during her entire life as a composer. She completed a violin sonata during her study years with Hägg and Lindegren. Several piano works complete the picture of a composer who almost exclusively composed for situations in which she herself took part.
Alice Tegnér was a born melodist, which is apparent not only in her children’s songs, but equally as much in her other works. She was known for her playful and energetic manner, something that is mirrored in her music.
©Gunnar Ternhag, Levande Musikarv. Transl. Thalia Thunander